Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants

Harvard Univ. Oct. 2013. 356p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780674724839. $29.95. HIST
The central premise of Amrith's (modern Asian history, Birkbeck Coll., Univ. of London) work is that the countries in the littoral of the Bay of Bengal have been "shaped by migration" and are ethnically diverse. His focus is on migrations from the eastern coast of India, particularly the Tamil migration to Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, and Sri Lanka. Trade links between India and Southeast Asia flourished from the sixth century onward, but the period of the greatest traffic was between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, when Tamil and Chinese migrant laborers cleared the forests of Malaysia for rubber plantations. The numbers of this diaspora were comparable to the migrations from Europe to the United States during the same time. In this extensively researched book (it includes almost 50 pages of notes), Amrith covers the historical background, the political and social world of the migrants, and the human suffering: the inhumanity of plantation life, disease and high mortality rates, and the aftermath of the crumbling of the European empires.
VERDICT This title would be an appropriate choice for South Asia and South East Asia collections in academic libraries.

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